How to ace exam season | Top Universities

How to ace exam season


Updated August 8, 2022 Updated August 8, 2022

It can be difficult to stay motivated after a long period of studying for exams. The toughest part seems to be keeping up the energy until the very end because the final tests are just as important as the first ones. 

Throughout my studies, I've found some helpful tips to stay on track when it matters most. Everyone works differently under the pressure of exams, so use the ones that work for you.  

Get organised with flashcards and digital tools 

As a natural sciences student, I have lots of exams across many modules, so staying organised is essential. It's about organising revision time and keeping track of exam dates and times to make sure I know when I should be revising which subjects.  

A lack of organisation can push you back and create more stress and anxiety in an already difficult time. I like to make it as simple as possible by keeping one calendar or planner that I use to write all the important information in.  

There are lots of approaches for effective studying, like flashcards, talking about a topic out loud, and creating practise questions. Using a variety of digital tools can help to make studying more interesting and keep you engaged.  

YouTube is a great platform for learning online as it’s an easy way to absorb information in small, bitesize chunks. I often find that people have different ways of doing things and I can learn much faster when somebody explains it differently in a YouTube video. My favourite channel is Crash Course. 

One of the most helpful things I've learned is when I'm most productive. I like to go for a run in the morning and once my energy levels are up, it's time for me to work. Find which part of the day works best for you and organise everything else around that.  

Make time for rest and a wind-down routine 

Student does yoga in bedroom

Maintaining a healthy sleeping pattern throughout exam season is something that's helped me to keep going. When I've wanted to pull an all-nighter to cram as much information in as possible, I've looked after myself instead and chose rest.  

Being well rested is a key element for health and proper cognitive function, so it comes as no surprise that it's also essential while facing intensive studying and anxiety around exams. I try to have a steady sleeping routine for at least seven hours a night. 

Aside from sleep, I've established some routines to help me wind down and relax. I like to do yoga in the morning and sometimes I even do it before bed, so it helps me fall asleep faster.  

Breathing exercises can also help, especially if you struggle with anxiety. I like to end my day by reading a book or journaling in bed. Integrating the practices I find helpful into different parts of my day have boosted my productivity and energy levels. It also helps to prevent burnout!  

Find a physical exercise you enjoy and create time for it 

It's easy to melt into your desk chair and cram for hours, but it's the quickest way to become tired, achy and grouchy. Moving your body in whatever way feels best (and however you're able to) gets the blood circulating and helps your brain to function better.  

I regularly make time for exercise or movement in my schedule. I love running, so I always make time for it without paying it much thought, but even if I don't feel like going out, I know I will feel amazing after getting those miles in. It makes me feel completely refreshed and ready to take on the day, so I do it in the morning.  

I can recommend trying to find an activity that works for you. Don't pick something you don't enjoy. Then take 30 minutes out of your day and dedicate it to that activity. It's not a demanding commitment to make, and I've found it to be incredibly beneficial. If you feel like skipping it, remember that you'll thank yourself later if you stick to it. 

Leave time for friends and coffee catch-ups

Tinkara and friends

Hiding away to revise for hours on my own can backfire and put me in a bad mental state. I try to make time to get together with friends to release some of the stress and tension that builds up during cramming sessions.  

I like to grab a coffee with a friend every few days so we can talk about how we're feeling. Communicating your feelings and fears is crucial. It often makes me feel so much better when I say them out loud and I can manage them better. Plus, speaking with friends gives us an objective perspective to help us see more clearly.  

Staying in touch with friends and family reminds me that I'm not alone and that whatever happens, someone will still be there for me. Having a strong support system is important and we should never neglect that for our studies. 

Eat healthily and go easy on the caffeine 

A salmon and avocado sandwich

Although I don't usually reach for processed and unhealthy food, I sometimes fall into a pattern of overeating during exam season. I'm stressed and anticipating my performance, so it's an easy escape but not a constructive solution. I also know people who hardly eat at all during exams, but exam time is when it's most important to eat lots of fresh food.  

Think of it as fuel to operate at your best. Getting vitamins and nutrients into your system and keeping your blood levels steady is key to feeling well and thinking clearly.  

Remember that coffee is not food! There is nothing wrong with an occasional cup of coffee to increase alertness but drink it in moderation and try not to rely on it for energy as you'll just end up feeling wired but not productive.  

Believe you can 

Lastly, believe that you can achieve the things you want to. Don't get discouraged when you see the deadlines approaching. Life does not end when exams start and keeping these healthy habits while you're studying can help exam season to flow more smoothly.  

While exams are important, so is our health and wellbeing and that continues to be a priority throughout life, no matter how stressful things get. Remember, you can do this.   

This article was originally published in August 2022 .

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